Will others follow Mall of America and provide free space for struggling moms and pops?
Mall of America is donating temporary space to several local businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest. Called the Community Commons, the 5,000-square-foot space will be the rent-free home to 17 retailers starting on opening Oct. 1. The shops will be allowed to remain open for free until next spring.
Mall of America selected the businesses, all from the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, via an application process and partnered with nonprofit and municipal organizations as part of the effort. Although not part of initial plans, the businesses are all minority-owned.
The pandemic has taken its toll on retailers and restaurants. Yelp’s new “Local Economic Impact Report” indicates that from March 1 through August 31, 97,966 businesses across the country had permanently closed.
Some of the 17 stores participating in Community Commons were waylaid by riots that followed the death of George Floyd in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.
The goal is to help the businesses get back on track. The program provides fixtures as well as marketing and promotional materials for every business at no extra cost.
“The Community Commons initiative is one of hope and possibility as Mall of America joins the efforts to help rebuild the hearts, minds and livelihoods of our diverse retail community,” said Jill Renslow, EVP of business development and marketing for Mall of America, in a statement.
Beyond any goodwill, Mall of America gets to fill a vacancy and avoid the eyesore of empty storefronts. Mall traffic may also benefit as consumers are looking to support local establishments.
“Skeptics may say Mall of America is just looking for positive PR at a time when most headlines are about delinquent mortgage payments, store closures, and thin crowds,” wrote Allison Kaplan for Twin Cities Business. “And who could blame them? Lively storefronts are a heck of a lot more inviting than empty storefronts. Even if there’s no money coming in, keeping the lights on conveys hope. Community Commons is a savvy gesture that comes at a time when people are anxious to lift up the disadvantaged and desperate to find some good in the world.”
- Community Commons – Mall of America
- Mall of America gives free space to small retailers impacted by pandemic, riots – Star Tribune
- Mall Of America Makes Dreams Come True For Small Retailers – Twin Cities Business
- MOA Opens Space For Retailers Hit Hard By Tumultuous Year – Twin Cities Business
- Yelp: Local Economic Impact Report – Yelp
- Mall of America gives free space to businesses affected by pandemic, riots – Fox Business
- Mall Of America Extends A Hand Of Unity To Challenged Local Retailers – Forbes
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see Mall of America gaining more than good press from Community Commons? Does such an incubator program make sense for other malls trying to manage empty storefronts?